Patriots Must Fix These Two Big Problems To Remedy Offensive Issues

Kendrick Bourne believes they're "definitely" fixable

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The New England Patriots boasted one of the NFL’s most efficient offenses during their seven-game win streak. But lately, that unit has struggled to consistently move the ball.

New England managed just 17 points in a Week 15 defeat in Indianapolis and 21 in a subsequent home loss to the Buffalo Bills, failing to overcome early deficits in both games.

What needs to change? Wide receiver Kendrick Bourne identified one glaring issue during his Thursday morning video conference.

“Just keeping ourselves out of third-and-long, I think, is the biggest thing,” Bourne said. “We’ve just ended up there a little bit too frequent, and that’s what we’ve got to fix.”

The Patriots faced third-and-7 or longer eight times against Buffalo, contributing to their season-worst 1-for-10 showing on third down. This was the result of inconsistent early-down execution. New England gained 2 or fewer yards on more than half of its first downs (15 of 26), including one first-down penalty.

“Some of those plays shouldn’t even have been there,” quarterback Mac Jones said after the game. “We should have skipped some fourth downs and third downs. First and second downs we could have had bigger plays from me.”

The Patriots also struggled in their few third-and-short opportunities, going 0-for-3 when facing third-and-3 or less. Head coach Bill Belichick said poor third-down play on both sides of the ball (the Bills went 6-for-12 with multiple third-and-10 conversions) was the Patriots’ “biggest problem” in the 33-21 loss. (New England was better on fourth down, going 5-for-6 and converting twice on two separate touchdown drives.)

Another major problem for the Patriots of late: slow starts. They’ve scored just seven first-half points during their two-game losing skid, falling behind 20-0 against the Colts and 17-7 against the Bills. They rallied in both games, racking up 31 second-half points, but couldn’t complete either comeback.

New England’s run-heavy, Jones-led offense is built to play from ahead. The Patriots have led at halftime in seven of their nine wins this season (and trailed by one and six points at the break in the two outliers).

“(It’s) really just locking in, executing,” Bourne said. “I feel like we haven’t been hitting all our points in the beginning, kind of starting late, starting slow. So just executing early on. Starting with a catch, a good run, whatever it may be, just to start off on the right foot.”

Bourne said he “definitely” believes the Patriots’ problems are fixable. They’ll look to rebound Sunday against a 2-13 Jacksonville Jaguars team that ranks 27th in scoring defense.

“It’s nothing crazy,” he said. “We’re still making plays. We’re still pretty confident — we’re very confident. It’s just about executing on every play, not taking any play for granted, and that’s how you’ve really got to think about it, because you never know which play is going to be the difference.”

New England Patriots wide receiver Kendrick Bourne
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